Business students driven by values and career opportunities

18 May 2016

The world’s business students are keen to get started at a company that reflects their values to better the world, offers a wide range of challenges and development paths, and provides long term career opportunities, a new survey finds. Finance and professional services remain key draw cards.

A new study by KPMG (titled ‘KPMG Student Survey 2016’), a global accounting and consulting firm, asked more than 500 undergraduate business students from 23 countries what factors are driving their career and related decisions.

Student concerns and aspirations

Changing values
The research found that geopolitical risks and instability affecting their career outcomes is a concern for 93% of business graduates, reflecting the opinions of executives regarding geopolitics in the current business environment. The millennial respondents are also concerned about the wider intent and values of the organisations for which they come to work; 88% say it is important that they work for an organisation that contributes to a better world, while 90% say that it is important for their labour to drive positive and sustainable change in society. 

First job considerations

Respondents are also keen to be employed long term, in contrast to the often short term ‘gig’ economic prospects many face. 70% say it is possible that they would stick with the same employer for their entire career, with 20% of those even saying it was likely, or indeed very likely.

The respondents cite three important factors that would see them stick around: career opportunities, professional challenges and work environment. An international career, with a number of different roles within the same company, are seen to be important for the business graduates. 80% said that they expect to work in three or more countries during their careers, while 89% are willing to relocate for the right job opportunity.

Rachel Campbell, KPMG’s Global Head of People, says: “This finding was backed-up when we asked the students to rank the most important factors in choosing a company to work for; career opportunities, professional challenges, continuous training and having an international mobility program, all ranked in the top 10. The other significant finding was that students (88%) are really passionate about working for a company that contributes positively to the world, with 90% saying it is important that the work they do in the future drives positive and sustainable change in society.”

Ambitions of students

Moving into the professions
The labour market is the top destination for respondents, 77% of the undergraduates are keen to start working for an organisation once they graduate, while 15% said that they would continue to diversify their knowledge and skills with a Master’s degree. Only 4% of business undergraduates are keen to start their own business straight out of school.

Campbell remarks that businesses too offer a space in which continued professional development is possible along various trajectories, saying: “I think it’s really interesting that the vast majority of students would consider working at the same company for their entire career. Millennials and Gen Y are seeing the value that large multinational organisations can bring to their careers. As businesses grow their global footprint and service offerings, people now have a greater opportunity than ever before to have several different careers within one organisation.”

Industry preference of students

The students often, the survey found, have a good idea about where they want to end up. Of the 64% that knows which sector is for them, 37% are keen for a Finance career and 27% are up for the Professional Services. Keenness among students for technology careers has dropped since 2014, falling from 18% then to 8% this year. This is, according to the analysis, in spite of 66% of students saying that they expect the sector to be the most successful over the next 20 years – while professional services comes in at 15% and finance at 10%.